The Wildcat Reviews: Netflix’s Shadow and Bone

Wildcat Staff Members review the Netflix adaptation of the popular Shadow and Bone book series.


Amber Kim

The world of Shadow and Bone. The series is a book-to-show adaptation that combines events and characters from two different book series into one eight-episode Netflix series.

When Netflix announced the adaptation of both the Six of Crows duology and the Shadow and Bone trilogy, finishing the series became a priority in order to maximize the viewing experience. 

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology centers around six outcasts who come together to infiltrate a military stronghold and complete an impossible heist. The Shadow and Bone trilogy focuses on Alina, a sun summoner who may be the only person that can save the kingdom from the Shadow Fold — a region of pure darkness full of “volcras” who feast on human flesh.

While many book-to-show adaptations tend to alter a few scenes or dialogue, this particular series completely alters the very essence of the book series — but in a captivating way. The director of the show, Lee Toland Krieger, based the show off of the first and second series that take place in the same world, meaning that the producers combined stories from two different plotlines into one. 

As someone who read both series, the concept of the adaptation was confusing at first, and different questions came to mind: How would they combine events and characters from different timelines? Is it possible that they might even change the endings of both series? 

The first season of this show is intriguing. With most book-to-show adaptations, the story tends to get boring because it adheres to the same climax and plot twists from the books. However, from the perspective of someone who read the books, it’s exciting to pick apart scenes that strayed from the original plot, and everything from the cast to the new story beats are enthralling. 

Another thing that is eye-catching is how perfectly each actor fits into their role. When reading the books and each of the character descriptions, most readers tend to have a vivid picture of how characters would talk, look, and dress. Netflix’s Shadow and Bone show did just that — they found actors who embodied each character the way that they are depicted on Bardugo’s pages.

Not only is the casting spot-on, but the aesthetics of each location and the different costumes fit beautifully with the concept as well. Scenes filled with dark and muted color schemes like those in the Victorian slums of Ketterdam have a steampunk aesthetic, while scenes from the Little Palace of Ravka have a mix of Light Academia and Victorian aesthetics.

Leigh Bardugo’s alternative world full of unique languages and magical elements is flawlessly recreated with the new book-to-show adaptation.

Reviewed by Amber Kim

After watching the trailer countless times, the thrill of being able to watch the new series Shadow and Bone was as exciting as ever. From the perspective of someone who did not read the book series, I had no clue what to expect. My hopes were high because of the dark and climactic plot in the teaser that promised storylines of magic and action, two of my favorite things.

Like any other show, the first episode usually results in mixed feelings — excitement, curiosity, and unfamiliarity. However, with Shadow and Bone, feelings of confusion, peculiarity, as well as bewilderment were felt throughout. 

Because the show had to be adapted to eight episodes from two entire series of books, the plotlines feel crammed together and forced.

Although all the scenes revolve around the main character Alina, it overall felt like the entire show was made up of three different plotlines consisting of very different groups of characters. Alina and the people of Ravka felt like one separate section from those who represented the Ketterdam pact.

Additionally, Nina and Matthias, characters who are also crucial to the story, only seem to have only a couple of scenes intertwining with the rest of the characters, despite their need in building up to the climax. While all the characters were somehow connected, they all serve a different purpose and the storyline feels confusing and frantic. 

The series kind of makes up for the confusing plot with beautiful and interesting aesthetics. The costumes and settings are spectacularly designed, especially the palace of Ravka and the details in the different villages that populate the world. 

The soundtrack, unfortunately, does not complement the show’s stunning visuals. During the climatic scenes especially, more rousing music would have added to the atmosphere of the story. 

A challenge for adaptations is retaining beloved plotlines that span thousands of pages in the novels. In Shadow and Bone, which condenses many books into eight episodes of TV, much of the more riveting plots from the original books are lost, resulting in a show that feels rushed and incomplete, a mere shadow of the Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows book series.

Reviewed by Vanessa Jo